Feces-flinging in the Texas sun

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1996:

SAN ANTONIO––Figurative feces-flinging escalated
around Primarily Primates over the summer, apparently
stimulated by a sniff of government funding for laboratory
chimpanzee retirement.
Language authorizing funding for investigation of
chimp retirement was in the version of the National Institutes
of Health budget bill approved by the Senate on September
12. Earlier, the House Committee on National Security and
the Senate Committee on Armed Services recommended that
retirement be considered as an option for disposing of the 150
chimpanzees now kept at the Primate Research Complex at
Holloman Air Force Base in Arizona, managed under contract
by the Coulston Foundation.

How much money may eventually be available for
chimp retirement is unknown, as is the number of chimps
who may be included, but prevailing belief among primatologists
and sanctuarians is that it will be more money and
more chimps than have been involved in any new federally
funded primate program since the start of primate-based
AIDS research more than a decade ago.
Among the organizations apparently angling for
some of the action are the Coulston Foundation, whose
founder, longtime laboratory supplier Frederick Coulston,
already handles the care of about half of all the chimps
involved in U.S. biomedical research, and was thwarted in
seeking legislation last year that would have given him the
Air Force chimps outright; the National Anti-Vivisection
Society, which has talked of chimp retirement in recent funding
appeals; the Doris Day Animal League, whose president,
Holly Hazard, suggested in a July 19 memorandum to 25
interested parties that she and/or former PETA director of
investigations Jeanne Roush should be sent to Africa to
investigate sanctuary prospects there; and The Association of
Sanctuaries, struggling to convince a significant number of
sanctuaries that despite having attracted barely a dozen members
in five years, it should become the recognized umbrella
and accrediting body for reputable sanctuary facilities.
Primarily Primates president Wally Swett, a recognized
pioneer in rehabilitating former laboratory primates and
reintegrating them into family groups, was on July 13 named
to a 13-member National Chimpanzee Sanctuary Task Force
advisory committee, and may accordingly have much to do
with how federal funding for chimp sanctuaries is spent.
A troupe of foes including both rival sanctuarians
and former staff don’t seem pleased.
War of words
On March 31, after five months of negotiation,
Primarily Primates took in 12 chimps retired from research
use by the Buckshire Corporation, a major laboratory supplier,
in a de facto prototype of retirement possibilities.
Since that date, Swett and partner Stephen Tello
have been blistered with a barrage of critical open letters and
dossiers addressed to funders and associates, many of which
have either been authored or distributed by people associated
with other organizations interested in chimp retirement.
In one letter, addressed to Texas attorney general
Dan Morales and dated February 17, but actually received by
ANIMAL PEOPLE and a variety of other animal protection
media circa May 23, Animal Rights Foundation of Florida
founder Nancy Alexander claimed to have discovered numerous
examples of negligent animal abuse at Primarily Primates
during a February 12 unannounced visit. Veterinary records
and her cab driver’s meter log, cited by Swett and Tello,
refute Alexander’s understanding of what she saw, as well as
indicating that her visit lasted just 18 minutes.
In another widely distributed letter, dated April 11,
addressed to Animals’ Agenda editor Kim Stallwood, TAOS
board member and Fund for Animals field representative
Sean Hawkins reported that he drove to Primarily Primates,
ostensibly to investigate Alexander’s claims, including that
Primarily Primates animals were inadequately protected from
the noise of power tools, only to spend “45 minutes honking
my horn and attempting to catch the attention of anyone at
the facility, without success.”
Critics also resurrected and recirculated allegations
repeatedly issued against Swett and Tello by activist Jean
McLean and Muriel Mackey, founder of the Massachusettsbased
forerunner to Primarily Primates. McLean and Mackey
contend that Swett “stole” the organization in 1981 by taking
possession of a number of monkeys and a trust fund established
to provide for them, after Mackey ran into trouble
with local authorities for allegedly neglecting the monkeys
during a serious illness. Swett finally won prolonged litigation
over the trust fund in 1993. Having already received the
McLean/Mackey packet at least three times in five years,
ANIMAL PEOPLE received it twice more during the summer,
once at least purportedly directly from McLean and/or
Mackey, and once from an organization calling itself the
National Primate Association & Registry Inc., run by one
Linda Hunnicutt from Naples, Florida. The latter was
unknown to Swett, International Primate Protection
Association president Shirley McGreal, American
Association of Primatologists president Joe Erwin, and many
other sources on primatology and/or nonprofit organizations
whom ANIMAL PEOPLE asked for background.
The fourth and thickest attack on Swett and Tello
was a collection of interviews with former Primarily Primates
staff and volunteers originally compiled in 1992 by John
Holrah of San Antonio Voices for Animals, which reached
ANIMAL PEOPLE then via people who had received it
from PETA president Ingrid Newkirk and Wayne Pacelle,
then a TAOS board member and national director of the Fund
for Animals, now vice president for legislation with the
Humane Society of the United States. Many of the most
damaging allegations in the Holrah dossier came from persons
who had been dismissed for serious cause, but nearly
two years later it resurfaced as foundation of legal action
brought against Swett and Tello by the Texas Office of the
Attorney General, amid a three-way dispute also involving
two other Primarily Primates board members who tried
unsuccessfully to take control of the organization, and
Massachusetts attorney Stephen Wise, whose fees in connection
with the long trust fund case Swett and Tello challenged.
That episode ended when Swett and Tello restructured the
Primarily Primates board in compliance with Texas Office of
the Attorney General demands, and rest of the state case was
quietly dropped.
Apparently unknown to Swett and Tello, until they
were informed by ANIMAL PEOPLE, a mysterious M.
Loew of New York City fired back this time, with an equally
thick dossier attacking TAOS president Lynn Cuny, mostly
in connection with her administration of Wildlife Rescue and
Rehabilitation, a sanctuary comparable to Primarily Primates
in age, size, and budget, located just 15 miles north of
Primarily Primates. The Loew dossier, reaching ANIMAL
P E O P L E on April 4 and various other animal protection
organizations over the next month, consisted chiefly of correspondence
with state and federal agencies about alleged
animal care and security problems, which Loew purportedly
gathered via Freedom of Information Act requests while considering
whether to send Cuny a monkey.
An M. Loew using the same return address has
apparently belonged to New York-area animal rights groups
for at least 13 years, but available public records indicate she
never had the requisite permits to keep a monkey, and her
name was not on the Primarily Primates mailing list. Further,
her dossier included correspondence from ANIMAL PEOPLE
to TAOS which ANIMAL PEOPLE had not released
in the same physical format to anyone else.
Cuny strongly implied in a letter to A N I M A L
P E O P L E that Swett and Tello were behind the Loew
dossier––and according to mutual acquaintances, she hired
Connecticut private detective Rich Novia, noted for work in
animal-related cases, in an apparently unsuccessful effort to
establish a connection.
Swett and Tello were in fact at work on a dossier of
their own, detailing years of conflict with Cuny and TAOS
founding president Pat Derby, much of it involving allegedly
unethical competition for “celebrity” animals and related
funding. That dossier hit the mail in late July.
Responded Newkirk to Swett on July 25, “You are
wasting good people’s time trying to convince them that all
those who are disgusted with your history of appalling lack of
basic standards of animal care are somehow plotting against
Cage-rattling continued into September. Swett and
Tello believe they also got a bad report from another surprise
visit by Alexander in late August, who was accompanied this
time by Hazard, National Chimpanzee Sanctuary Task Force
advisory committee member Carole Noone, and task force
cochair Roger Fouts, who shares the leadership with his wife
Deborah. Swett, Tello, Fouts, and Noone had all just come
from a major primatology conference held in Madison,
Wisconsin. According to Swett and Tello, caretakers had
neglected some chores in their absence. But if Swett and
Tello did get a bad report, nothing about it entered the
grapevine during the next few weeks.
Other members of the National Chimpanzee
Sanctuary Task Force include ethologist Jane Goodall; psychologist
Mark Bodamer of John Carroll University, who
developed the environmental enrichment program for Jan
Moor-Jankowski’s acclaimed but now disbanded LEMSIP
laboratory; anthropologist Steven Easley; psychologist Mary
Lee Jensvold; conservationist Linda Koebner; Aaron
Diamond AIDS Research Center microbiologist Preston
Marx, who as former director of the New Mexico Regional
Primate Research Laboratory oversaw the design and construction
of its $10 million chimpanzee facility; zoologist
William McGrew, author of Great Ape Societies; Viktor
Reinhardt, DVM; and Richard Wrangham, director of the
Kibale Chimpanzee Project in Uganda since 1987.

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